Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Military Responds to Emergencies—Sometimes

On October 25th, 1999, the day that golfer Payne Stewart died, the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard were ready. When air traffic controllers lost radio contact with Stewart’s Learjet 35 only 25 minutes after take-off from Orlando, a pair of F-16s—flying a routine training mission out of Tyndall AFB—gave chase, but didn’t catch it. An F-15 fighter, flying out of Eglin AFB, took up pursuit of the wayward Lear, keeping it in sight for 25 minutes before diverting to St. Louis for fuel.

A few minutes later, four Air National Guard F-16s and a KC-135 refueling tanker, out of Tulsa, took over the chase, but barely got within 100 miles of the ill-fated Learjet before handing off to two Air National Guard F-16’s from Fargo, N.D., which kept the doomed aircraft in sight until it ran out of fuel and hit the ground.

The point I’m trying to make here is that when a single small commuter aircraft carrying six people goes off-track, the military responds (appropriately) by deploying no less than 10 aircraft of its own, but when four commercial passenger aircraft carrying scores of people are hijacked by terrorists, the military can’t seem to find its ass with both hands.

It just seems terribly convenient that on the day that terrorists decide to strike, military jets and fighter pilots on the eastern seaboard are engaged in training exercises. But, then, I guess training for an emergency is easier than actually dealing with one.

Does this lack of military response on 9/11 prove conspiracy theory? Naw, it only hints at one. It’s just another piece of the puzzle.